Keep Music Playing 19 – RNCM Student Reopening!

Leaving was smooth, returning is much more complicated…

When we closed the College doors in March, adaptation to new ways of working was brilliant. Staff and students were testing virtual teaching, many for the very first time, some staff found their workload doubled, or dramatically changed to adapt to new priorities and needs. Remote working had to fit around family commitments and sometimes complex personal situations. We also had some new staff who started during lockdown, needing enhanced support, taking up a new role, without setting foot in the College.

Of course, we never planned to be out of the building for so long, for all of us, it’s been a slow realisation of how serious the situation has become and how long it could last for.

Yet, one goal has always been in sight. To reopen our building to students for the new autumn term.  We set up a cross school team, utilising a broad range of in-house expertise, to lead on strategic planning. We are currently following 4 different sets of government health and safety guidelines – to align with the varied uses of our building – and carrying out numerous risk assessments, all of which must be signed off and adhered to before we will fully open our doors.

As we’ve seen with the recent local restrictions across much of the North West, changes to guidance are constant and rolling back planned activities is both difficult and frustrating.

However, we are able to still share some good news stories! In recent weeks, we have been slowly, carefully, increasing levels of building use. A pilot group of staff and students came in to test our new social distancing systems, final year students have been returning, in carefully scheduled slots, to practice for their (delayed) final recitals and percussion students – many of whom haven’t had access to instruments for months – are finally able to come into College and make music again.

When our students return, so will our new programme of masterclasses and recitals, many of which will be streamed to our audiences online. Investment in new technology will enable us to deliver cutting edge virtual broadcasting, supported by our brilliant in-house Programming, IT, Sound and Video and Ensemble Plus teams. We can’t wait to perform for you again. We know it’s not the same as being together, but we hope it will stop us feeling quite so far apart.

Susan Baines, Deputy Principal (Operations)

New students, new ways of working

We are hugely excited to be welcoming a new cohort of students. We’re co-ordinating with city partners to get international students here safely and we are committed to ensuring that all students will be able to experience our Welcome Week, in the building, to feel connected to the RNCM community.

Highly complex timetabling has been carried out to enable students to move around the building safely, get in and out of rooms without crowds building and enable us to do our enhanced cleaning. It helps that we’re a small institution with some very big spaces!

Our stages will be adapted with set layouts for performing within social distancing rules, our vocal students will all now practice in rooms with natural ventilation, and throughout the building, intense hygiene measures, screens and PPE will become the norm, ensuring we can deliver a safe environment for our staff and students. We are looking forward to reawakening the building again with their music, creativity and vibrancy and we’ll be sharing news and performances with you over the coming months. If you would like to find out more about how you can make a huge difference, supporting this vital work then please click here for more information.

Opera North Street Scene

When alumnus Alex Banfield sang Lonely House in Opera North’s production of Kurt Weill’s Street Scene earlier this year, little did he know how pertinent the lyrics would become just weeks later.


Back in May we showcased the band Klezmer-ish, who met while playing with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and include RNCM alumnus Thomas Verity. Despite a delayed release date and tour cancellation due to current restrictions, they went ahead with a planned concert at the beautiful Ullet Road Unitarian Church in Liverpool to launch their new album Dusty Road and perform together again. Albeit sadly without an audience.

You can find out more about the band and the album here.

Pop project

To inspire our Popular Music students this summer, tutors devised a virtual recording project for incoming pop students to work in bands and connect with our current year 1 students.

Students were placed in mixed bands with each group sent a song to learn, record and produce.  Collaborating virtually, the project culminated in a Zoom event showcasing the videos, including this fabulous cover version of Adore You featuring Matteo Tontodonati, Barney McNamara, Bonnie Higgs, Harvey Brittain and Elis Roost.

Walk out of yourself

We’re delighted to share another project devising novel ways to create, produce, and share work through the pandemic. Streaming platform Opera Vision has brought together opera makers from around the world to create short digital pieces during confinement. Their next premiere will feature RNCM alumnus, composer and conductor Michael Betteridge in a new piece Walk Out of Yourself, co-created with the Voicings Collective.

The piece is an abstract realisation of lockdown experiences, a part diary, part drama inspired by, and featuring footage of, Michael’s daily walks around Manchester.

The film will be live streamed on Tuesday 25 August, click here for more details.



Through the summer Psappha, the Manchester based contemporary classical music ensemble, have been streaming a series of films showcasing their innovative Composing for scheme. Psappha was formed by alumnus Tim Williams and all of their core musicians are RNCM alumni; many are also College tutors.

Their Composing for schemes give emerging composers direct access to one of Psappha’s core musicians or a special guest. Over a number of months participants get to know each other personally and musically, with new work created through collaboration.  This has led to more than 100 new works to date, many of which are by RNCM students and alumni.

Here, Composing for Sitar with Jasdeep Singh Degun, features six works including pieces by RNCM students Nate Chivers and Aaron Breeze.

Thank you

Huge thanks to all our wonderful donors who continue to support the College and our students during these challenging and costly times.

As I’m sure you can imagine from reading about our extensive reopening plans, the College is also facing significant additional costs to ensure the building is safe and adhering to the huge array of government guidelines. Of course this comes at a time when our income from concerts and catering has stopped completely. We are so excited to be able to welcome back our students, enabling them to make music together again and share it via online streaming with our audiences. We would be incredibly grateful if you are able to support the College’s vital reopening work, for more information about reopening please click here.

Thank you for your generosity.

21 August 2020